Just wanted to take a second to express my huge gratitude to everyone who took the time to illustrate Halloween and Thanksgiving traditions for me. Several people actually PMed me with extra info and I am just seriously blown-away by how generous you all were. I couldn't reply to a few people because their PM permissions were disabled (or they weren't logged in) so to those people - thank you too!
"Woah." Was Sam Winchester's official reaction to the world of magic.
He hadn't been able to wait, even though it was very late in the afternoon by the time they finally hit Manitoba. Even though they'd both assumed the shopping area would be closing or closed by the time they got to it, Sam had sheepishly admitted that he wouldn't be able to sleep a wink unless he was able to at least see it first.
They hadn't needed to worry. Canada's biggest magical area was still as busy as a beehive. Parents strolled about with their kids, relaxing after a long day and chatting with stall owners as much as they browsed while teenagers traveled in loud packs or lounged about swapping rune-inscribed wedges of crystal that made their veins glow - and them giggle.
Music floated through the air - literally, notes lighting up and flowing from place to place, sometimes fighting for prime positions with other songs - and tiny fairies were zipping about and coaxing fey-flowers to open, their stored sunlight shining bright to light the place up for night time trading.
A few new fast food stalls had popped up by the entrance and the map seemed to have developed a restaurant area since the last time he'd seen it. Sweet and savoury scents tempted them and Sam stared, borderline horrified, as an old lady daintily caught licks of flavoured fire that leapt up from within a glass bowl - that she carried about like was just an ice cream cone.
"I don't think," Sam muttered him. "that I really believed. You know. 'Til now."
Harry nodded, understanding. It was one thing to be told "Yer a Wizard, Harry" and another thing entirely to experience it.
He pointed Sam to the map, who devoured it with eager eyes. An attempt to take a photo was unsuccessful, his phone simply refusing to show anything but random pixels and the occasional sinister shadow. Undeterred, the hunter whipped out a notepad and pencil and painstakingly copied everything down instead.
"We can probably buy one." Harry suggested, looking around for a handy sign advertising just such a thing. "Maybe one that automatically updates itself too, since this isn't how everything looked last time."
"It isn't?" Sam hesitated, torn, then quickly finished a rough outline before tucking the notepad away again. "Okay, we also need to find an information desk."
There wasn't an information desk. Even in Canada, the Wizarding World wasn't quite that modern.
Most of the stalls that had been by the entrance during his last trip were missing now, but one of the remaining ones had cheap, disposable versions of the charm Sam was wearing on display. Figuring it was their best bet, he pointed it out then hastened to catch the enthusiastic man before he could bull forward with all that well-meaning earnestness.
"Let me take the lead." He reminded him quietly. "Wizards don't tend to like Muggles very much, remember?"
Sam nodded, visibly checking himself. Harry stepped forward instead, a quick chat and exchange of coin netting them both a map and the information that, technically, there was no closing time. Stalls would pack up if and when they felt like it and not a second sooner. Some only even appeared when it rained for more than 12 hours straight or during a leap year and there was at least one that could only be entered if you weren't meaning to.
What had been wonderfully exotic and exciting to Harry once upon a time was nothing short of horrible for Sam. Already working feverishly against the clock to save his brother and with limited access, the news that opportunities might be lost to him simply because of Wizardly unconcern with uniform schedules… he hid his panic well, but not quite well enough. Harry chewed the inside of his lip for a second then nudged him, shoulder to arm, just like he would Ron - reminding him that he was there, to calm down, that he had backup.
For a long moment, Sam was an unmoving stranger, closed off and closed down.
Then he relaxed, shoulders falling as he breathed out. A thankful quirk of lips was slid his way and the two moved on.
As they explored the night market, Harry began to wonder if he should have spent some of the drive up stressing just how much some wizards disliked Muggles - or, failing that, how much damage a single unfriendly one could do. He'd had to remind Sam over and over not to ask too many questions, to let Harry take the lead, to not look so wide-eyed at everything strange and to hide the charm that let him in under his shirt. For a grown man (and a hunter), the guy was almost embarrassingly excited by everything. His wide eyes and genuine interest coupled with earnest and deceptively intelligent questions might have been well received if this had just been a foreign country (or Sam about half his age) but, it wasn't that simple.
Wizards, unlike Muggles, had very long lifespans - and thus very long memories. Many of them would have had a grandparent - or even a parent - alive during the 'recent' witch trials. Since many Witches and Wizards of Canada were from or descendants of those that had fled America after the Revolution went badly, Sam as an American Muggle would be regarded particularly poorly.
Sam seemed to genuinely understand this - but just couldn't help himself when faced with a tiny girl with pointed ears (and teeth) selling enchanted weapons, or a mirror whose reflection advised him to get a haircut - and a job while he was at it.
It was all Harry could do to reign him in every so often, reminding him subtly (and pointedly, when one irritated old Witch glanced around like she was looking for witnesses) that if anyone took offence a Muggle asking so many questions, they were both risking a quick-and-dirty mind wipe and then where would they be? Up the river, that's where, probably permanently.
Luckily, he managed to eventually divert the man with the promise of books. They hit Gringotts (Sam loved the fall, asking whether it was based on some Muggle book or if the book had been inspired by it - like Harry had half a clue about either?) and lucked out on a relatively short line for a Goblin teller. An awkward, vaguely-hostile conversation later and Harry had a statement for his account and the relief of knowing that his transactions were protected from scrutiny in accordance with clauses in the last Goblin-Wizard treaty - something the creature seemed to take offence at Harry not knowing.
On the bad side, the pile of gold he'd seen in his vault in Britain had looked a lot more impressive than the bottom line he was looking at now. He'd been careful with his spending (mostly) but he'd never actually seen a statement before and there were a lot of deductions on this list. Hogwarts took about 6,000 galleons a year for room and board, there was also an annual tax of just under 100 galleons (the amount prior to his parents' deaths had been much higher) and a withdrawal of 350 galleons in his first year that was probably for his broom. (He wasn't sure how he felt about that. On the one hand, it was his broom so absolutely he should have paid for it. On the other, nobody had asked him for permission. If it was that easy to take money from his vault, maybe he shouldn't be leaving it there.)
Mrs Weasley had taken money (with his key and permission) for the last two years, doing his shopping and withdrawing him some pocket money. He hadn't thought to ask for his key back (he really hadn't thought much about anything back then, too busy just being a kid and enjoying himself) but now he could see that between the two summers she'd also made hundreds ofuses of his key for small to medium withdrawals - all of which were repaid within a few days or weeks.
He wasn't sure how he felt about that either.
The bottom line, however, was that his starting balance of just under 100,000 galleons and change was now just over 67,000 galleons. Still a big number but the difference between them was startling considering he'd felt he'd been pretty stingy with his spending (omnioculars and gifts for his friends aside).
In Muggle money it was just over half a million American dollars - a huge amount - but the Wizarding world just didn't price things the same way the Muggle world with their industry and mass production did. Magic muddled everything up. Some things were impossibly cheap, others obscenely expensive and what mattered most right now was the price of books and any potential amulet/object or ingredients they might need to save Dean's life.
All three were the most expensive things one could buy in the Wizarding world.
Unlike in the Muggle world, only newspapers used printing presses to keep up with demand for rapid production and even they had to melt down and re-cast their letters every month or so. Magic tended to stick to metal (just look at the Knight Bus or Mr Weasley's Ford Anglia) and the magic from moving words and images tainted the printing presses, leading to them reshaping themselves and printing random other things instead. One of the reasons The Quibbler was viewed as unreliable was because they couldn't afford to 'clean' their presses as often as the Prophet could - and so an article about a political scandal became a rambling dissertation on the breeding habits of Nargles.
Harry had no idea if Luna knew that or not and had no intention of ever bringing it up.
Books of spells on the other hand were always hand written, copied with fresh quills each time and the old ones burned so that they couldn't interfere and mis-write anything important. Books of mere history tended to be quill-written but by automated enchanted quills rather than by hand and were thus the cheapest of the lot.
Books with images were rare and pricey, books that had ceased production (most of them, once the first batch were sold) spiked in value - unless the author had a bad rep or was a Muggle-lover or Muggle-born of no note, in which case they could sometimes be snapped up dirt cheap.
The rarity, difficulty and thus expense of potions ingredients and artifacts went without saying.
Frankly, his head was hurting just thinking about how to balance his remaining funds against their overwhelming need for things of such unpredictable cost - especially considering that if there was some kind of artifact that could protect Dean, they couldn't afford to blow all their money now at risk of not having enough later.
They went back outside and found a lone book-selling stall still open and spent a solid two hours combing their stock until the seller's polite requests that they leave turned into books 'mysteriously' sliding away from their questing fingers.
"Sorry." The seller added, as he closed the place with an angry snap of his wand and stalked off.
They called it a night. Another twenty minutes found them back in Bobby's borrowed truck and on their way to a motel about half an hour away.
"The ones out of town tend to be cheaper." Sam explained and Harry absorbed this bit of wisdom as he poked at the phone-map Sam was using to find the place. "And this one is a mom-and-pop type which means the bathrooms probably won't give you a communicable disease and the towels'll be soft. It might not sound like a big deal but trust me - sheets that don't smell of bleach or cigarette smoke cannot be over-hyped."
"Got it." Harry muttered, trying and failing to manipulate the map the way Sam could. He felt a tad frustrated by it really. He liked to think he was more Muggle-savvy than Ron but this was like nothing he'd ever seen before. Dudley's phone had been sleek but large enough to accommodate his sausage fingers. It had had buttons too, not just a glass screen. Maybe Aunt Petunia had also been less delusional than he'd thought and hadn't wanted to spend big bucks on a phone like this only for her precious Diddykins to break it within a month. Even blaming it on Harry (somehow) wouldn't take the sting away from their wallet.
"So, you gonna get any sleep tonight?" He gave up on the phone and turned to Sam, tilting his head at the pile of books in the footwell. Creatures, myths and artifacts were the general repeating themes. Sam grimaced something that might have been a smile.
"I don't need much." He said lightly, and then they were pulling in to something that looked more like a house than Harry's mental image of a motel. As Sam parked and both of them started gathering their stuff, Harry wondered if the contract would let him sleep before Sam did.
Bobby sat on the porch with a book in his lap - one of Harry's, as he'd come to think of the 'magical' books, regardless of which of them actually bought 'em - trying and failing to get his head in the game.
He could hear Dean out in the yard, cursing everyone ever involved in the design and construction of a piece of crap Corvair some nostalgic idiot had wanted restored, but the semi-familiar sound of a Winchester kept safely busy wasn't bringing him a whole lotta comfort for once.
Dean's words to him back in Minnesota were ringing in his ears like he'd taken a two by four to the skull.
"You didn't see him, Bobby. He was cold."
"Back in Wyoming, there was this moment. Yellow eyes said something to me… that maybe when Sam came back from wherever… maybe he came back different."
"Idjit." He growled - at himself as much as Dean. At the time, the boy's words had just come outta left field. He hadn't really grasped them quickly enough - reacted the way he should. He'd hesitated.
He should have slapped Dean upside the head, right then and there, regardless of his personal feelings - no matter what they were.
"You think… you think something's wrong with my brother?"
Dean had cracked a window open in that damned thick skull of his. He'd let Yellow-eyes' words slip under his skin to plant a seed of doubt…
…and like a damned fool, he'd paused long enough for that seed to take root. By the time he'd realised he was taking too long to think about it, it was too late. His "Naw. Demons lie." Response had been weak because of it.
And Dean had just taken it as confirmation of his worst fears - or at least validation for having them - instead of his surrogate uncle just being an old hunter who reacted to the possibility of changed behaviours by automatically running through his most recent memories to check.
Now he was left with a nasty feeling that he'd inadvertently done Yellow-eyes a favour.
"Balls." He muttered, at a loss for how to actually fix his screw-up. Dean was a hunter - the suspicion that his brother wasn't quite right would eat away at him on multiple levels. Sam was a desperate man fighting the clock and Dean's refusal to get involved would only put more distance between the boys which would in turn skew Dean's perceptions as he tried to see whether he'd sold his sold for something wrong, whether he'd actually failed in his duty after all.
And he frankly didn't see either of them enough to really be able to say for sure what was what. Whether Sam was whole or not.
To really be able to help.
He shook his head and forced himself to focus on the spidery text of the poorly-spelled yet apparently reputable treatise on Sáwlum Eorðcynnum - Souls of the Human Race. It was written in a bastard mix of Old English and Middle English, of which he had only a passing familiarity with the latter, and seemed to use multiple words for singular concepts depending on the author's mood or level of inebriation.
But, it was more than any of them had any right to hope for and for all of their sakes', he wouldn't let it - or his worries - beat him. Besides, if they could find an answer and managed to fish Dean's fool ass out of the Hellfire, the two idjit Winchesters would have all the time in the world to patch up their soap opera of a relationship.
…It was times like these that he thought he really should have just shot John Winchester all those years ago when he showed up at his door with two little boys in tow. One salt and burn later and maybe the boys wouldn't be the twisted wrecks they were today.
The next morning saw Sam yawning widely but blinking determinedly at the road. He'd somehow managed to go through all of the books last night (Harry thankfully getting a solid eight hours sleep instead), if not intensively. Harry had woken to some kind of pasta-in-a-cup for breakfast and a list as long as his arm for things to look up in the library. The plan for today was for Harry to hit the library and Sam to hit the bookstalls (stretching his browsing-without-buying allowance to the limit) with St Jude (who'd been having a staredown with the Impala when they'd come out that morning) carrying discoveries and messages between them.
The place was packed when they arrived and Sam visibly brightened as their map updated itself to show many more shops than had existed the night before. With just a quick pause to borrow some gold from Harry, he was off into the thick of it.
Harry stared after him and huffed a laugh. Merlin help him, but he couldn't help but like the guy. Dean was a dick of the highest order but Sam at least seemed like a pretty good bloke.
He made his own way to the library, able to walk reasonably slowly as the crowd made running almost impossible. St Jude sat on his shoulder, occasionally preening himself but mostly giving a death glare to any Witch or Wizard who dared get too close.
It was lucky his head could twist so much, really.
He took advantage of the temporary calm, enjoying the fact that he was out of England and away from Voldemort and his Death Eaters. The air was fresh, the sun was warm but not hot and a vendor sold him a small bag of soft biscuits - cookies? - for only a knut that lasted him all the way to the small brook-and-bridge that separated the main, Muggle-allowed shopping area from the Wizard-only district. Having bought a map of their own, Harry now understood that there weren't three districts (shopping, official and residential) but just two with a 'ring' of constantly flowing water (and powerful wards) separating the internal shopping district and gateway to the Muggle world from everything else.
He crossed the bridge and almost immediately slammed into someone backing towards him with a camera held over their heads.
"Ah! Scuze moi!" Someone gasped as Harry tried to sputter out impossibly soft and silken hair.
"No problem." He replied just as soon as he'd managed it, looking back again just in time to see the girl's eyes widen. Combined with her delicate face and long lashes, it made her 'pretty' move to 'beautiful'.
Then he looked again, realising that he actually knew this girl…
"What are you doing here?" They demanded of each other, before Gabrielle paused and giggled and Harry couldn't stop a responsive upturn to his lips despite his sudden fear of discovery. In a move motivated more by urgency than boldness, he slipped his hand into hers and dragged her away from the busy bridge to a small table behind some softly-humming decorative plants.
Gabrielle sat beside him, a faint blush touching her cheeks. Harry only noticed because when he let go, she continued to hold onto him.
He cleared his throat.
"It's, uh. It's good to see you." He opened as he tried to think of the best way to beg her not to mention his presence to anyone ever, but especially not her sister. If Fleur knew, Bill would know and then he might as well owl Dumbledore himself.
"And you." Gabrielle replied cutely. She looked older than the last time he'd seen her but not quite old enough for the look she was giving him. Bloody hell, wasn't she still in primary school?
His mind flickered over a possibility so fast that normally he wouldn't even notice that he'd thought of it. With the contract an ever-present influence however, it was immediately pushed to the forefront of his mind as a possible solution.
Gabrielle was acting kind of like Ginny. Ginny had a crush on him. If Gabrielle had a crush on him too, he might be able to use it to keep her quiet.
Something in his stomach turned over a little as using the girl like that. Something outright rolled at the thought of how, if she pushed for more, he might just have to allow more if it kept his presence a secret.
He swallowed tightly and lifted the hand still in his, clasping it firmly. The faint blush tinting the girl's cheeks darkened into something much less controlled.
"Listen, Gabrielle. I really need you to do me a favour." Her eyes seemed to get bigger and her hair stirred in a breeze he couldn't feel. Trusting the contract not to let him get swept away by any allure she might be emitting, he soldiered on. "Nobody can know that I'm here. Nobody. Not even Fleur. Not your friends or family or anyone back in England. Please, it's really important that nobody knows I'm here."
"You are, hmm, doing ze secret study?" Gabrielle half whispered, half squealed. "Devenir un héros. Learning ze… magie des arcanes. Finding ze way to keel 'e who must not be named, oui?"
There was nothing else he could say, but;
"Yes." He tightened his grip, hating the contract for making him a liar - but also grateful for it because without it, he probably wouldn't have the strength to say what needed to be said to keep her quiet. "So, you understand why no-one can know I'm here, right?"
Gabrielle nodded. "Ze Death Eaters, zey would try to find you." She declared solemnly.
Harry nodded. "Not just them." He pressed carefully. "The good guys don't know I'm here either. If they did… they might try to make me stop… learning. Or they might accidentally slip to the death eaters where I am. Or it might get tortured out of them - out of Fleur - if they thought for a second that she or they knew where I was."
He'd frightened her, he could see it as plainly as the hand that she was now trying to tug out of his grip. He held on despite it, grim faced.
"I'm sorry. I'm not trying to scare you. This is just really important, Gabrielle."
She looked down at her lap but stopped trying to pull away.
"If you… don't want to be seen," she began after a long silence. "Why are you 'ere? Not déguisé at all."
"Because I have to be." Harry neatly sidestepped the question of why he wasn't disguised. Mostly because it was so stupid that he hadn't thought of that himself before now. Anyone could be wandering through this place - like an Order member sent to search for him. He might be wary of using his wand in Canada in case they could trace it and outright not able to use it in America, but he could at least dye his hair or buy a potion or really just do anything at all to not look like Harry Potter! Idiot.
"I need to use the library here, but because I don't live in Canada, I can't take the books out. I have to come in person."
It turned out that the reason she was in Canada today was because she was attending boarding school here - to practice and improve her English.
She had residency.
The library would let her take out any book she wanted and she was more than willing to act as a go-between for Harry, aiding him in his quest to gather the skills he needed to defeat Voldemort. He didn't need to know French to understand that the girl held him in the same sort of hero-worship Ginny once had. To her, he was a knight in shining armor, on a quest against evil and his victory was assured.
To him, she was a sudden goldmine of use.
They went to the library together, Harry spinning a story on the spot about how Voldemort was in league with demons and he needed to find something very special to help break his power. Gabrielle ate it up with a worshipful spoon and, as Harry passed the day working down Sam's list, darted back and forth and all over with an energy that was almost completely foreign to him. Several of the books she found for him were written entirely in French. One was written in German and a tattered pocketbook was written half in Polish and half in hieroglyphics.
("It was on 'ze list." She'd shrugged at his bemused stare.)
She also gleefully dug up all kinds of books he wasn't looking for, like a slim potions book aimed at specifically at brews that increased cognitive power and allowed for accelerated language learning - more than necessary, if Harry wanted to read the French books. A glance through it showed that material from a bilingual native speaker was necessary for any language learning and Gabrielle shyly offered a lock of her own incredibly silky hair.
Harry took it with a blush of his own that he ducked his head to hide but Gabrielle seemed very pleased with.
Tracking, warding, orienteering, fighting and other suitably 'heroic' texts slowly built up on the table he'd taken for himself. Harry thanked Merlin that there was a limit on how many books he could take out at once because as useful as they all were, to him and his contract they weren't.
Good news, he penned in a note to Sam. I've found a friend who's offered to forward on books to and from the library for me. We won't have to keep coming to Canada to research new things - we can just send her a list.
St Jude took the note with an eagerness that betrayed his utter boredom and took off. An owl of learning, he was not.
Great!Sam wrote back shortly afterward. So far I've had to buy three books to keep from being cursed for 'stealing the merchandise with my eyes'. Oh, and one guy accused me of being a Muggle spy but I managed to convince him that I was a Squib big brother trying to learn what I could to support my Wizard little brother. By the end of it he was patting me on the back for being a 'noble cripple'. I think I'm insulted.
Understandable. Harry wrote back. But on the other hand, your liver hasn't been turned into jelly. …Right?
…Not that I know of…
You're probably fine then.
…Are you qualified to make that diagnosis?
Nope. Not at all.
"How can you read so fast?" Harry asked after more than an hour of silent reading that night at their motel. Sam seemed to almost be pretending to read, turning the page like a dozen times or more to Harry's once.
Sam blinked up at him.
"I mean," Harry elaborated. "Aren't you afraid you'll miss something? Or forget it?"
Sam shrugged. "Not really." He answered, like the very idea was baffling and strange. "Once I read something, it generally sticks around - especially important stuff like this."
Oh. Harry ducked his head, feeling worse than Hermione had ever made him feel. He knew he took it easy at Hogwarts and was a little bit lazy with his schoolwork and study. It made Hermione's brilliance easier to handle when some part of him knew he wasn't trying anywhere even close to his best. But here and now? The contract was forcing him to put his all into this but he was still moving at a snail's pace compared to Sam and Bobby.
"I don't have that good a memory." Harry admitted. "Bobby - and you - you can just reel stuff off, like my friend Hermione can. I can't-. Even with the contract helping, I just can't seem to remember everything I read unless I read it slow - sometimes multiple times. It's not so bad now," He continued, like a pressurised section of stress had suddenly been tapped and it was all just bursting up out of him. "but I worry sometimes that I might miss something or not mentally link something just because I can't remember - and I can go check again but we're gonna get more books and seriously? How am I supposed to remember which book has X random tidbit in it? Bobby got me some little stickers and cards? But they're not really any help at all."
"Well, we do have like a lifetime of hunting over you." He assured. "And a huge part of that is research. I agree though, that it might become a problem."
He thought about it for a few seconds.
"Most hunters - including Dean and me and Bobby - write the important stuff down in a journal. You could do the same, or even just a sort of index of important topics and which book and page you found them in to make finding them again easier."
"That sounds like the card system Bobby tried to teach me." Harry observed with a grimace. The lesson hadn't gone well. He understood, mostly, the system of cards and numbers and margin keywords for cross-referencing, but it all seemed so needlessly messy and time consuming. If only he could use magic, there had to be a spell to make things easier.
"Well, you could try doing it on the computer?" Sam offered. "I couldn't afford a laptop in college right away so I ended up studying by hand a lot - and it worked better for my retention anyway - but if you typed up everything you found into a word document or something, then it's just a matter of a button press to find key words. Oh, or, you could use an excel file - then you can organise data by different keywords in different orders and-" He broke off as he caught sight of Harry's utterly uncomprehending expression.
"Right." White teeth glinted in a grin. "Tell you what, on the way back, we'll pick you up a laptop of your own and I'll show you how to work it. Then you can decide how to keep track of things - deal?"
"Deal." Harry agreed, relieved.
"'Prophecies and how not to misinterpret them'?"
Harry glanced over from where he was brushing his teeth to see Sam holding up said book with a raised eyebrow. Harry rolled his eyes and lifted a hand to signal 'I'll get back to you, hang on. In the meantime, Sam leafed through the book with his usual curiosity.
Harry finished up and exited the bathroom.
"Sorry about that. Gabrielle must have slipped it in. She, uh, kind of believes that, um… Sam? You okay?"
Sam's grip on the book had tightened, his lips pressing into a thin line. Hard eyes snapped to his own.
"They're real? Prophecies and stuff."
Harry shrugged. "Yeah. Some of them. Most are a load of rubbish, even for Wizards. One of my teachers is a professional fake - but she also makes real predictions she doesn't remember afterwards and all the centaurs at my school seem really good at reading the stars, so…"
A sudden thought struck him.
"Sam? Is there some kind of prophecy about Dean going to hell?"
Oh Merlin he hoped there wasn't. Based on his experiences so far, fighting prophecy seemed about as effective as fighting an earthquake.
Slowly, Sam shook his head. Then, seeming to shake off whatever was worrying him, he shook it again and smiled.
"No, sorry. Don't worry, no prophecy. I just. Um." Hazel eyes eyed him, cautious and quick. Harry just blinked back, waiting for Sam to remember that he literally couldn't betray the man and so he really could tell him anything.
Sam seemed to understand a second later and the reminder relaxed his massive frame just as it always did. This time, he turned to Harry with a completely open expression.
"I used to have these… dreams. I'd see things before they happened, that's all. It's stopped, but. I. No, it - it seriously doesn't matter. Sorry, never mind. I guess I just thought… it would have been nice to have a guide on how to interpret them back then."
Harry processed this. Compared it to what little he knew after three years of divination.
"Sam…" He said slowly. "As far as I understand it… when you have 'the gift', you've got it for good. Wizards can mostly train their magic to serve for short-ranged divination if they work at it, but even Muggles can be true seers occasionally. You definitely saw the future?"
"I used to." Sam reminded him, shifting a bit like the topic embarrassed him. "I haven't since, uh. Since the foci of them all died."
Harry chewed his lip. He knew there was more to Sam's ability than the man was admitting, but if he was right… this could be really helpful.
"The famous seer Cassandra" he said eventually "was actually a Muggle who was cursed by a Wizard to never be believed, because he didn't think a Muggle should have greater power than he did but he couldn't actually stop her."
"There's truth to that legend?" Sam asked. Harry waved him, and the topic, off.
"The point is, if you've seen the future before - without any magical or mundane aids - there's a really good chance you could again. Sam," Harry added, seeing the hunter's continued reluctance "if nothing else? This could let us know if something we find will or won't work."
And Sam was sold.
"Okay, but how do I make it.. start? Again."
"No idea." Harry admitted. "We're gonna have to work that out. My divination textbook is back at Bobby's. It has all kinds of techniques we could try, see if you can induce one by concentrating. Were you awake when-"
"It started when I was asleep." Sam interrupted. "Then progressed to waking visions. They hurt like hell and I'd sort of… zone out of reality for a little while." Harry nodded.
"Okay, sleeping and waking visions. My teacher could see death in a slice of chocolate pudding, but according to my unbelievably well-read friend, most material foci - glass balls, tea leaves and entrails etc - give only unfocused immediate predictions. Stones tend to give you the weather four hundred years from tomorrow and fire is apparently great for visions but pants for control, but there's hundreds of other types that were only in our books and weren't practiced in class."
Sam started packing up the room in earnest. They'd already had to cut their trip short as Dean had called with a new hunt and insisted (threatened) to do it alone if Sam didn't get back in time.
"It's hard to believe this stuff is all real." He said quietly, a half-smile on his lips as he carefully - almost reverently - stowed their bought and borrowed books away.
"Believe it." Harry said flatly.
The drive home seemed longer than the drive up had been.
Maybe because the drive up had featured an excited Sam and energetic conversations about music, magic and growing up on the road. Now, Sam was a tired slump behind the wheel and Harry was letting him play whatever he wanted without protest in the hope that it kept him awake.
Maybe because Sam was exhausted or maybe because he'd just been reminded of how Harry was bound to help (or maybe both), but about an hour and a half past the border he dropped a figurative bombshell.
"Did Bobby tell you about Ruby?"
Harry turned his head, frowning a little in thought. Ruby, ruby. Oh right, the rude blonde bint who'd shown up with the super special ingredients needed to make more bullets for the Colt.
"She's a demon." He nodded. "But she's helping us, supposedly."
Sam was silent for a long time.
"You don't think she is?" Despite the clear question, his voice was all but inflectionless.
"Well, I haven't seen much of her… and all I have t go on is Bobby's complaining, but… well, you know how she helped us fix the colt?"
Same nodded, the lines of his body relaxing a little as though Harry agreeing that Ruby was helping was a relief.
"She wouldn't tell us what all the ingredients were." Harry said flatly, frankly not liking that relief. He'd be the first to admit that he was new to all this demon stuff but Bobby had been very very very clear that demons couldn't be trusted.
They were conniving liars who could twist the truth and rip out your heart and mind (figuratively or literally) either in one very bloody go or over a longer period of time. They were tormentors, literal devils who burrowed into a person's mind and ruined the people around them until they got bored and moved on - usually plus a murder or seven. They supposedly used to be super rare but were now almost a dime a dozen since the Hellgate had been briefly opened.
"Call me paranoid," he continued firmly "but I think that if she was genuinely on our side? She wouldn't hold back information like that."
"She didn't have to help us at all." Sam argued, brow furrowing deeply.
"Maybe she isn't." Harry suggested. "Maybe she's helping herself and getting our trust as a bonus."
There a long, half angry silence.
"You think she's different?" Harry asked neutrally.
"Yes." He said shortly, then hit the wheel.
"And no. I think she's a manipulative bitch who's hanging hope from a stick like a carrot to a donkey. But. She's a demon and. I can't just ignore the fact that she of all people might have... I don't know. Insight? Inside information? An answer?"
Hazel eyes shot briefly to him, a quirk of generous lips softening the almost violent emotion behind it.
"Honestly?" Sam continued. "If Bobby hadn't turned you up outta nowhere… I'd probably already be playing along. Not trusting her, not really, but…" He sighed. "There was just… nothing, Harry. No book with any answers, nobody who knew anything but stories of deals come due and people never seen again. Nothing. And she said-."
He cut himself off, lips pressing tightly.
Harry turned to face him, shuffling under the seatbelt till he could lean against the passenger door, one leg bent to balance him.
"Said what?" He pressed.
Sam's jaw worked. Finally, grudgingly, he answered.
"She said that it wouldn't be easy. Or, good. That I couldn't be good, not if…"
Not if he wanted to save his brother, Harry filled in. His own increasingly analytical mind and instincts roused at the wording, making him frown.
"Sounds to me like she's telling you upfront… so she seems honest. And maybe…"
"Maybe I won't cut her loose later, when she actually asks something bad of me?" Sam concluded. "Yeah, I realised that immediately." He shot Harry a self-deprecating look. "I studied law. Leading people - juries, mostly - to think a certain way without actually breaking the law or letting them know you were doing it was practically a minor all by itself. No, I know she's manipulating me. I can see what she's doing. But." He shook his head, frustrated.
"I can't really explain it, it's just. Dean's my brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do, to protect him. To save his life. Saving his soul is just… so beyond that, there aren't even words for what I would do."
Long fingers tightened on the wheel. Hazel eyes checked him again, visibly weighing up whether to let any more secrets loose. As before, Harry's magical binding to aid and not betray him seemed to be like a key in a lock.
"People have been calling me…" He hesitated, but with another quick glance at his patient audience, continued. "'Boy King'. Like, an Antichrist of sorts. I don't know if it's real or just demon bullshit aggrandising whatever plan yellow-eyes had for me, but. If all else failed. If that was what it took, to save Dean?"
Hazel eyes narrowed on the road, an unmovable mountain of determination.
"I'd do it."
The cab was silent but for the hissing of tyres on wet road and the humming of the engine.
Harry struggled with what to say. 'That's stupid' was his first reaction but even he realised that would be beyond unhelpful and would only close Sam off from confiding in him again. Besides, could he honestly say he wouldn't do the same? If it was Sirius' soul on the line, or Ron or Hermione's? To save someone from eternal torment by doing something you knew was bad but which you probably couldn't really predict how bad until you were actually doing it…
Yeah. It'd be an easy step to take.
'What would Dean do then?' was equally unhelpful. Dean hadn't thought about what Sam would do, when he'd made his deal, and it didn't look like Sam would - or could - think about the 'after' either. Both needed to save the other so much that basic common sense couldn't get a word in edgewise.
It was sort of awe-inspiring - and terrifying. Harry was kind of both sad and glad that he didn't have a bond with anyone that was even close to this powerfully intense.
The one thought that overrode it all, however, was that this Ruby demon was bloody dangerous - not just in general, but to Sam specifically. An active, if apparently patient, threat. One who wanted Sam to do bad things and was banking on combined love and desperation to get what she wanted.
According to the terms of his contract, now that he knew this threat existed he could not, by inaction, allow it to strike.
He lowered his head, green eyes narrowing and glowing slightly as the binding within him shifted and resettled, allowing for new priorities. Aloud, he said only:
"Don't worry, Sam. It won't come to that. A world of magic and supernatural history trumps some secret-keeping demon with a hidden agenda, any day." His confidence loosened something in Sam, who half-turned to shoot him a thankful smile.
Harry smiled back, darker thoughts well hidden.
Contractually, and personally, if this Ruby bitch tried to use Dean to hurt Sam - Harry would eliminate her. He may not be a hunter, but he was a wizard - death was only one of many answers to a problem like her.
Our little Harry is growing up so fast. *sniffle*
I had to guesstimate Harry's financial amount because my eyes got tired with counting coins in screenshots.
Apologies to Luna-lovers, but I don't think I've ever seen a fic where her oddness and imaginary creatures are actually signs of her being out of touch with reality and/or just plain wrong (and not sharing that delusion with her father like some sort of family trait). When the notion occurred, I couldn't help but write it in.
I meant to get this posted days ago but my whole family got dominoed by a nasty virus. It's enough to make you want to live in a bubble and install sanitisers at all entry points. Second biggest chapter so far at least! Please do let me know what you think and thanks again for all the amazing help last time. :)